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Champions League preview: EPL clubs need late rally as La Liga, Bundesliga rule roost

WITH just two matches to go, there are no Premier League clubs yet assured of qualification into the next round of the Champions League.

Chelsea and Arsenal could change that this week but even that would only partially excuse what has been an inconsistent and disappointing campaign so far from the four English clubs.

For all their domestic dominance, Jose Mourinho’s men have brought that form to the European stage only once so far – a gritty win over Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. They aren’t losing but draws may prove costly, especially if they can’t get over Schalke on Wednesday morning (EDT).

After a opening-game hammering in Germany, Arsenal looked to have recovered well enough until their astonishing capitulation against Anderlecht earlier this month. Up 3-0 with 30 minutes to go, Arsenal were pegged back to 3-3 and now with games against Borussia Dortmund (Thursday (EDT)) and Galatasaray to come, their progress is not so certain.

And then there is Manchester City and Liverpool.

For the third season in a row, City face the real prospect of not reaching the next round if they don’t win both games against Bayern Munich and Roma, while Brendan Rodgers’ men have been horribly out of their depth. They badly need victories over Bulgarian side Ludogrets and then Basel to even have a remote chance of progressing.

Spanish and German clubs are again the benchmark, with the Premier League playing catch up.

Just a few days after setting a Spanish domestic goalscoring record, Lionel Messi is chasing another milestone in the Champions League on Wednesday morning (EDT).

The Argentina forward is even with Raul’s all-time record of 71 goals, and he could better that when Barcelona travels to Cypriot club APOEL.

“He doesn’t stop breaking records,” Barcelona defender Jordi Alba said.

“It’s a privilege to have Messi as a teammate.”

Real Madrid have already reached the next stage and will be looking to continue their unbeaten record on Thursay morning (EDT) when they face Swiss side Basel while crosstown rivals Atletico can secure passage with a win on Wednesday (EDT) against Olympiacos.

Bayern have predictably led the German charge, but the form of Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke have also been impressive.

Pep Guardiola’s side have already qualified, as have Dortmund. Leverkusen need a point against Monaco on Thursday morning (EDT) to progress.

Leverkusen have won all three games since losing at Monaco in the first group game, defeating Zenit Saint Petersburg both home (2-0) and away (2-1), while bottom side Benfica were also beaten 3-1 at the BayArena.

Bayer will be looking to pick up where they left off three weeks ago when South Korea striker Son Heung-Min claimed his first Champions League double in their 2-1 win in St Petersburg.

It’s also looming as a big week for Italian clubs. Juventus could take a major step towards progression if they beat Malmo while Roma really need to beat CSKA Moscow.

MATCHES

Wednesday morning (EDT)

Group E

CSKA Moscow v Juventus

Manchester City v Bayern Munich

Group F

Apoel v Barcelona

PSG v Ajax

Group G

Schalke v Chelsea

Sporting v Maribor

Group H

BATE Borisov v FC Porto

Shakhtar Donetsk v Athletico Bilbao

Thursday morning (EDT)

Group A

Atletico Madrid v Olympiakos

Malmo v Juventus

Group B

Basel v Real Madrid

Ludogorets v Liverpool

Group C

Bayer Leverkusen v Monaco

Zenit St Petersburg v Benfica

Group D

Arsenal v Borussia Dortmund

Anderlecht v Galatasaray

Originally published as EPL clubs face crucial Champions League week

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